Friday, July 19, 2013
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen (Part 2)
Part 2: A Decade of Mia Farrow (1982-1992)
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
After a period working with United Artists in the late 1970s, Woody Allen ended his tenure with the company in the fall of 1980 just as the company would be hit by one of the biggest flops in the history of American cinema with Michael Cimino’s epic-western Heaven’s Gate. For Allen, he departed at the right time as he was able to secure a new film deal with the newly-formed Orion Pictures that was founded by Arthur B. Krim, Eric Pleskow, and Robert S. Benjamin who had all worked with United Artists until leaving in 1978 following a dispute with the bosses of the Transamerica corporation. Allen’s relationship with the three men had been fruitful as he and his team of producers would have a very steady relationship with the company for an entire decade.
During that period, Allen was working on various new projects including a fictional-documentary project that was to become Zelig with his collaborators in cinematographer Gordon Willis, editor Susan B. Morse, and casting director Juliet Taylor whom Allen worked with in Love and Death as she would be a key player for the entirety of his career. With Diane Keaton unable to take part in Allen’s projects due to various commitments, Allen would eventually find Keaton’s replacement in his then-new girlfriend in actress Mia Farrow. Farrow had already made a name for herself in Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic Rosemary’s Baby as she had been in numerous films during the 1970s while was in a relationship with music composer Andre Previn during that time.
It was around this time that the post-production on Zelig would take a long time to finish as Allen decided to make a film based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night into a comedy of sorts about a weekend in the country where six people get entangled into emotions and such in what was supposed to a wedding celebration for a new couple. Though Allen originally wrote the role of Ariel for Keaton, he decided to give it to Farrow instead as he would play the inventor Andrew. The cast would be filled out by longtime Allen collaborator Tony Roberts along with Jose Ferrer, Mary Steenburgen, and Julie Hagerty as Allen shot the film in upstate New York using little props to set the film in the early 1900s.
The production was less hectic as previous films as Allen decided not to play the lead role by focusing the film more as an ensemble piece where he would give the actors equal time to develop their characters as well have individual moments. The film also played to a sense of mysticism as it relates to spirits and such where Allen wanted to approach it in a comedic manner but in an overtly funny way. Allen also explored the ideas of love and sex as it relates to the many desires of the characters as Allen’s Andrew still has feelings for Ariel as she’s about to marry this older professor.
The film was released in July of 1982 where despite being well-received by its critics, the film was considered a commercial disappointment. While Mia Farrow would get a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress as it would be the only time Allen would get a nomination in his career. The film was still considered to be one of Allen’s finest films as the executives at Orion were not upset knowing that Allen was working on another project during that time which was to be Zelig.
During the 1980s, Allen was conceiving a very radical project that was to explore the idea of identity as he set the project during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Entitled Zelig, the film was to be a story about a chameleonic-man who transform himself from one person to another depending on his surroundings and such as he has no idea about his condition until he’s cared for by a sympathetic doctor. While it would be told largely in a documentary style in which Allen would have various individuals talk about Zelig. It would incorporate rare footage, old photos, and all sorts things to showcase Zelig’s unique life.
With Mia Farrow in the role of Dr. Eudora Fletcher and Allen in the titular role of Leonard Zelig, the film was to be a very grand and experimental sort of film where Allen and Gordon Willis grabbed a lot of old film stock to create something as if it was made in the 1920s and 1930s. Along with editor Susan B. Morse, Allen wanted to make the film look like newsreel footage of the times as well as put scratches and such to make the film feel like it was from that period. Willis and Allen also employed lots of old equipment for the project as it had the sense that something special was made where Allen would be a character in those times.
Knowing that Allen would have to play many different types of personalities for the film, Allen got the help of makeup and hair designers to play off all sorts of characters as if he was Chinese, an African-American, a fat man, or whatever to showcase Zelig’s unique disorder. Many of it is played for laughs where Allen approached the humor in a subtle manner while getting Patrick Horgan to do the narration. Farrow’s role would be a supporting one as she also incorporated herself into many scenes of the film while being a foil of sorts for Allen.
While the technologies of the time were primitive, Allen would find a way to insert himself and Farrow into some big moments of the time such as a speech conducted by Adolf Hitler that Zelig and Dr. Fletcher would interrupt where Zelig had unknowingly became a Nazi. Allen would use blue screen technology to put himself in these moments and pictures to create that sense of idea that a guy like Zelig could exist. Yet, the special effects took a long time to make where Allen would use that time to make A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy and shoot his next film Broadway Danny Rose.
The film was released in July of 1983 as it would be one of Allen’s widely acclaimed films as well as being a modest hit in the box office. The film’s critical adulation would spread not just America but also Europe where Allen’s visibility was becoming bigger. The film would play at the Venice Film Festival in September of that year where it was a major hit as it won the Pasinetti Award for Best Film. Along with a few prizes from European film organizations, the film would get two Oscar nominations for its cinematography and costume design as well as a New York Film Critics prize for Willis’ cinematography.
Broadway Danny Rose
During the post-production period for Zelig, Allen conceived another project that was to be about the entertainment industry that involved a loyal but incompetent talent manager who gets himself into trouble when he’s trying to get a has-been lounge singer’s mistress from New Jersey to New York City for the singer’s comeback show. The project would be not just a low-key comedy of sorts but also to showcase some of the drawbacks of the entertainment industry as it would be told by a group of comedians eating at Carnegie’s Deli in New York City.
With Allen playing the titular character and Mia Farrow playing the role of the singer’s mistress Tina Vitale. Allen and Juliet Taylor were trying to find someone to play the role of the has-been lounge singer Lou Canova as Steve Rossi auditioned for the part but Allen felt that it wouldn’t work. Sylvester Stallone and Robert de Niro were both approached to play the part as Allen eventually gave the part to an unknown in Nick Apollo Forte. Allen shot the film in 1983 in New York City while doing post-production on Zelig at the same time.
For the film’s look, Allen and Gordon Willis decided to shoot the film in black-and-white where Allen recalled some of the imagery of Federico Fellini as an idea for the close-ups and such that Allen wanted. Since many of the characters in the film were either Jewish or Italian, Allen wanted to amp up the stereotypes a bit while giving them time to flesh out. Including Farrow’s character where Allen had her wear a wig and certain clothes in order to act like a tough Italian from New Jersey. The film would also have Allen be someone who is sort of an incompetent as an endearing one as his character goes through so much trouble for his client where the end result is a heartbreaking one as his character is forced to resign to the fact that he has to manage the small number of low-level talent that he has.
The film was released in January of 1984 where it was another critical and commercial hit for Allen. Especially as it managed to make $10 million against its $8 million budget. The film would also play at the Cannes Film Festival that May where it would help continue to further Allen’s popularity in France and the rest of Europe where he would make more money overseas.
The Purple Rose of Cairo
After a very hectic few years involving the ambitious Zelig and the more low-key films of A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy and Broadway Danny Rose. Allen decided to return to something much more normal but have a sense of ambition in a project that recalls his love for not just cinema but also its power. By setting his next project during the Great Depression, Allen wanted to create something that had an air of nostalgia but also about a woman’s desire to escape from the dreariness of her life that includes a very unhappy marriage.
With Mia Farrow playing the lead role of Cecilia as this clumsy waitress who loves the movies as she continually watches a film called The Purple Rose of Cairo. The film-within-a-film would be about a Manhattan playwright who goes to Egypt with some friends as they meet an archeologist named Tom Baxter as he returns to New York where he falls for a chanteuse. The film would have Cecilia falling for the Baxter character as she wants to be with someone who is full of naiveté and charm like he is.
For the role of Tom Baxter and the actor that plays him in Gil Shepherd, Michael Keaton was originally cast for the role but after 10 days of filming. Allen and Keaton both agreed that Keaton wasn’t right for part as Allen eventually gave the part to Jeff Daniels who had just made a breakthrough performance in James L. Brooks’ Oscar-award winning film Terms of Endearment. The cast would include Danny Aiello, Farrow’s sister Stephanie, and Dianne Wiest in her first of many collaborations with Allen as a hooker. For the actors playing the characters in the film-within-a-film, Edward Herrmann, John Wood, and Deborah Rush were cast.
The film would definitely be a change of pace of sorts for Allen in terms of its approach to humor and drama as he would create many storylines involving Cecilia’s fascination with Tom as well as the actor Gil Shepherd while Tom would embark into a journey of his own as he walks out of the movie he’s in to check on a sad Cecilia and later be fascinated by the real world. In turn, there would be this strange love triangle between Cecilia and these two men while the movie that Tom is in have the characters find themselves stuck with no idea what to do. Eventually, it plays into a moment where Cecilia finds herself in the movie as if she is a new character in the film. It all plays into Allen’s sense of fantasy and his love for the movies.
The film premiered in March of 1985 in the U.S. where despite a somewhat disappointing box office take though it was in a limited release. The film still managed to score big with critics as Allen himself stated that it’s one of the few films he’s made that he loves. Later that May at the Cannes Film Festival, the film was a big hit where Allen won the FIPRESCI prize while later getting his first Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film as well as BAFTA for Best Film. The film also gave Allen another Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay as the film would be widely considered to be one of Allen’s finest films. Yet, the film would also be the last time Allen and cinematographer Gordon Willis would work together as the latter decided to work less frequently until he eventually retired in 1997. Willis’ contributions to Allen’s film would prove to be a big help to Allen as he found more confidence as a filmmaker.
Hannah & Her Sisters
Allen’s next film would be an ambitious story involving the lives of three sisters in the period of two years where they would all meet during Thanksgiving. The project would be once again set in Allen’s native New York City as he decided to go for a project that required a large ensemble as well as multiple storylines that intertwined with one another. Notably to play out the complex but often tumultuous relationship between three sisters and their lives as it would be told not just in a comedic manner but also dramatic as Allen would play one of the sister’s ex-husbands who is going through a life-altering crisis involving faith and death.
To play the three sisters, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, and Barbara Hershey were selected as each women would bring different personalities to their characters. Farrow as the lead role of the very successful Hannah, Hershey as the middle sister Lee, and Wiest as the youngest yet wandering sister Holly. Allen wanted the women to spend time together to act out as if they were sisters where they would love each other but also hate each other at times. Many of the ideas that Allen was writing about was once again inspired by the works of Ingmar Bergman as he cited Bergman’s 1982 film Fanny & Alexander as an inspiration for his story.
With Allen playing Hannah’s ex-husband, the cast would include Michael Caine as Hannah’s husband Elliot, Farrow’s real-life mother Maureen O’Sullivan and Lloyd Nolan as the parents of Hannah, Lee, and Holly, Max von Sydow as Lee’s intellectual lover, and Carrie Fisher as a friend of Holly. The film would also include appearances from Sam Waterston and Tony Roberts as well as early appearances from actors like Julie Kavner, John Turturro, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Richard Jenkins, Joanna Gleason, and Lewis Black. Allen also decided to have Farrow’s adopted children as extras in the Thanksgiving dinner scenes to create that sense of family and craziness that goes in Thanksgiving dinner.
To help Allen create scenes on a visual scale, Allen got the services of renowned Italian cinematographer Carlo Di Palma who was famous for his work with famed Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. Di Palma would one of Allen’s new regular cinematographers for the next several years as the two would find ways to create some dazzling shots of the city and some of its locations including a montage where Sam Waterston’s character showing Holly and her friend April many of the great architectures of New York City. Di Palma’s contributions would also help Allen create some unique approach to lighting for some scenes in the interiors and at night as it would be different from the richer work that Willis did.
The film would play into many complexities about life, love, and all sorts of things where Elliot falls in love with Lee as they have an affair while Holly tries to find herself in many ways through a catering business and trying to become a writer. Yet, it would all eventually come to annoy Hannah who has been very successful but finds herself becoming unhappy as she later tried to hook Holly up with her ex-husband Mickey which becomes a disaster until they would meet again years later. Largely as it would help play to some of the resolution of its characters despite all the turmoil they’ve been through.
Released in February of 1986, the film was widely hailed as one of Allen’s great triumphs while the film would also become Allen’s most commercially successful at the time grossing $59 million against its $6.4 million budget. The film would also get numerous accolades including seven Oscar nominations where it won three Oscars for Allen’s screenplay and Supporting Acting prizes to Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest. Allen would also win two BAFTAs for its direction and screenplay as well as getting a Cesar nomination for Best Foreign Film.
With the big success of Hannah & Her Sisters, Allen decided to go back to something that was simpler but also played into an element of nostalgia. Inspired by Federico Fellini’s 1973 Amarcord, Allen’s next project would be about the Golden Age of Radio in the late 1930s and 1940s as it would be told by Allen playing a man reflecting on his childhood. The project would also include a story about a woman who is eager to become a radio star as it plays to the man’s memories about that period in time.
Set in Rockaway Beach, New Jersey, Allen wanted to go for something that had that air of nostalgia not just in its look with help from cinematographer Carlo Di Palma. He also wanted to create a sense of liveliness into the world of a child as he’s coming of age during that period where he lives with his Jewish-American family as they would encounter many things during this period of radio. With the help of longtime production designer Santo Loquasto, who had worked with Allen since the early 80s as a costume designer and then taking over the production design work from Mel Bourne. Allen didn’t just want to create an intimacy and authenticity of that period but also in the look of the nightclubs and radio studios of the time.
With Mia Farrow playing the role of aspiring radio star Sally White, the cast would also include regulars like Dianne Wiest and Julie Kavner along with Josh Mostel, Michael Tucker, and a young Seth Green playing the character of the young Joe. The film would also feature appearances from other Allen cohorts like Tony Roberts and Jeff Daniels plus a special cameo from Diane Keaton whom Allen asked to appear as a singer for a New Year’s Eve party. The film wouldn’t just play to the life of a family but also in how the radio seemed to impact them where Allen wanted to capture that sense of joy the radio brought.
Most notably in a dramatic sequence in which a young Joe and his family listen to a radio broadcast about a girl who fell down a well. It’s a moment in the film that showcases not just a moment where a child encounters tragedy but also the importance of how his family can be there with that boy to all forget about themselves and come together as a family to listen to this moment. Allen doesn’t just capture that sense of family in that film but also how they can enjoy spending time with each other as Allen voices that sense of joy in those times as the older Joe as it also has an air of sadness of a period that can never be replicated.
The film premiered in January of 1987 to great acclaim though it’s box office take wasn’t big in comparison to Hannah & Her Sisters. The film would play out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival later that May to great acclaim where it affirmed Allen’s place with the international film scene. Particularly as the film would gain two Oscar nominations for its screenplay and art direction as well as Writer’s Guild nomination for its script and six BAFTA nominations plus two awards for its art direction and costume design.
Wanting to step away from comedies and more light-hearted features, Allen decided to go into his next project into another step into the world of drama. Inspired by the works of Anton Chekov, Allen’s next project would play into the world of depression, loss, and demons in the life of a woman who is recovering from a suicide attempt. For Allen, the project would be very different from many of his projects as well as something just as different as his 1978 drama Interiors.
While the project was shot inside the Kaufman Astoria Studio in Queens, New York City as Allen was unable to shoot the film in Connecticut. The production was very troubled as Allen had a hard time trying to figure out what he wanted. With Mia Farrow and Dianne Wiest already cast in the roles of Lane and Stephanie, respectively. Allen brought in British actor Denholm Elliot as a widowed neighbor of Lane while the cast would include Maureen O’Sullivan as Lane’s mother, Charles Durning as Lane’s stepfather, and Christopher Walken as Lane’s friend Peter. When shooting began in October of 1986, things didn’t go well as Allen didn’t like some of the performances as Allen brought in Sam Shepard to replace Walken as production was re-started.
While editing the film with Susan E. Morse, Allen decided to start all over again complicating matters as the budget grew bigger as Allen re-shot the film again this time with Farrow, Wiest, and Elliot playing their parts again with Elaine Strict as Lane’s mother, Jack Warden as Lane’s stepfather, and Sam Waterston as Peter. Allen would eventually finish shooting in June of 1987 as he continued to work and re-work everything as it proved to be troubling as he also decided to work on another project at that time.
September came out in December of 1987 where it got good reviews but it’s box-office take was very poor as the film became one of Allen’s big financial flops. Though the film would show Allen taking more risks as a filmmaker, the film was a setback of sorts for Allen as the experience of the troubled production forced him to re-think things. Yet, it would also play into ideas where Allen would use actors and then cut them out as it would start to become more known in later films.
During the hectic production of September, Allen decided he wanted to take another shot at drama as he once again turned to the works of Ingmar Bergman for ideas. By interpreting Bergman’s 1957 film Wild Strawberries, Allen decided to create a film where a woman’s life starts to unravel when she accidentally hears another woman’s analysis about her own life. Notably as this woman has to look back on her own life as well as the way she treats people around her.
Though Allen originally wanted Mia Farrow to play the lead role of philosophy professor Marion Post, Farrow was pregnant during the production as Allen decided to give her the role of the other woman who is ravaged by her life. Allen decided to cast Gena Rowlands in the lead role as it would prove to be a great idea as the cast would include Ian Holm, Harris Yulin, Blythe Danner, Philip Bosco, John Houseman in his final performance, Sandy Dennis, Martha Plimpton and Gene Hackman. Though Mary Steenburgen was originally cast to play Post’s sister-in-law, she was re-cast during production by Frances Conroy as Allen would shoot the film in his native New York City.
With Carlo Di Palma unable to take part in the production, Allen would get the chance to work with the revered cinematographer Sven Nykvist who was one of Ingmar Bergman’s great collaborators. Working with Nykvist not only gave Allen ideas of what he wanted to do visually but also in creating moments that would recall some of Bergman’s work. Yet, Allen was able to infuse his own ideas as the film would be told from Post’s perspective as she would narrate the film to display her own emotional journey. Notably as she watches a recreation of a conversation she had with her husband as she is being played by an old friend to showcase revelations on not just herself but also her marriage.
The film was released in November of 1988 where it did OK in the box office while it was a hit with critics. Notably as it is widely considered to be one of Allen’s more underrated films by fans and critics. While the production was much smoother and less hectic than September, the film did give Allen a bit of a breather as he was becoming more confident as a dramatic filmmaker.
New York Stories-Oedipus Wrecks
Allen’s next project would be a collaborative effort with two other revered filmmakers in creating an anthology film project all set in New York City. With Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola taking part in this project, all three men would each direct a segment set in New York City in their own style. Allen’s short entitled Oedipus Wrecks would be a comedy about a man’s complicated relationship with his overly-critical mother as he wishes for her to disappear only to suddenly reappear in the sky talking to everyone in the city.
With Allen playing the lead role as it would also star Mia Farrow, Larry David, Julie Kavner, and Mae Questel as the lead’s mother. The segment would be a return of sorts to Allen’s earlier comedies as it featured people talking to the mother up in the sky as a man’s life is unraveling. It would be a very imaginative short where Allen also worked with Sven Nykvist as his cinematographer who brought in some nice visual ideas that definitely captured the beauty of the city.
The film was released in March of 1989 where Allen and Scorsese’s shorts were well-received though Francis Ford Coppola’s short, which he co-wrote with his daughter Sofia, was not well-received as the film would be a box office disappointment. Yet, the short would be one of Allen’s highlights of the 1980s as he proved that he still had something to say in comedy.
Crimes & Misdemeanors
For his next and final film of the 1980s, Allen decided to fuse comedy and drama to explore the world of morality and existentialism in two different stories based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. One of which would be told in a drama while the other would be in a comedy as Allen would star in the latter as a small-time filmmaker named Clifford Stern while the former would star Martin Landau as the successful ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal. Yet, both stories would eventually collide in the end as the two men talk about their experiences.
The cast would also include a wide array of actors including regulars Mia Farrow, Joanna Gleason, and Sam Waterston as well as Jerry Orbach, Claire Bloom, famed psychologist Martin S. Bergmann, Anjelica Huston, Caroline Aaron, and Alan Alda. Many of which would play into the different stories that Allen had conceived into the world of comedy and drama. Notably in the way to men steer their lives where one aims for ambition while other is trying to keep a dark secret. With Sven Nykvist shooting the film, it would recall not just some of the works of Ingmar Bergman but also Allen’s own fascination with people doing bad things.
For the dramatic portion, Allen wanted to keep things simple and direct as it plays to Judah Rosenthal’s own conflict about not just the extramarital affair he’s having but also how to end it when his mistress threatens to tell his wife about the affair. That portion of the film would also have Rosenthal face his own past as a child where he thinks about his religious teachings. It would play into a man facing not just the guilt over what he committed but also asking for redemption for his actions as it would prove to be Allen’s strongest work in the world of drama.
For the comedic portion of the film, Allen created a segment where he plays this small-time director who is asked to shoot a documentary about his brother-in-law whom he despises. He falls for the documentary’s producer as he hopes to have her get involved in another project about a renowned philosopher. In turn, he tries to woo this woman despite being married while also trying to depict his brother-in-law as a pompous fraud as the two try to win over this woman.
Both Judah and Clifford would meet at a wedding as both men talk about their actions in the end as it relates to not just questions of existentialism but also the idea of guilt. Though one manages to come out his situation very well, the other is forced to resign to his own fate as it creates a major complexity to its ending. Notably about the way life is as it’s told from the philosopher that Clifford wanted to profile.
The film premiered in October of 1989 as it would be widely considered to be one of Allen’s great triumphs. While it did OK in the box office, the film was a major hit with critics as it would gain three Oscar nominations for Martin Landau’s supporting performance as well as Allen’s script and direction. The film also gave Allen clout as he ended the 1980s on a major high note as some believed that his best work was in that decade.
Now entering a new decade, Allen decided to go into a different genre for his next project as he would turn to Federico Fellini’s 1965 film Juliet of the Spirits as inspiration for his next project. This time around, Allen would set it in his native New York City where rich housewife goes to a mysterious Chinese herbalist named Dr. Yang for back pain only to play into what she wants in her life. With Mia Farrow playing the titular character, the film would be a genre-bending film where Allen would play into the elements of fantasy as well as a woman’s desire to find herself.
With a cast that would include appearances from Allen regulars Julie Kavner, Blythe Danner, Caroline Aaron, and Judy Davis in her first of many collaborations with Allen. The cast would also feature William Hurt, Joe Mantegna, Keye Luke as Dr. Yang, Alec Baldwin, Cybill Shepherd, Bernadette Peters, and filmmaker James Toback in a cameo appearance. The film would also reunite Allen with cinematographer Carlo Di Palma after a brief break as they aimed to create something that had a sense of magic as it would be set during the fall and winter period during the Christmas holidays.
The film also had Allen using some visual effects to maintain that sense of fantasy where Alice drank a herbal tea where she became invisible as it added a sense of comedy but also would play into some drama. Notably as Allen would use these visual effects to help a woman go into this very personal journey about who she is and what she wants. In many ways, it’s one of Allen’s most entertaining and engaging films where it plays to a woman finding herself whether she needs a man or not.
The film premiered on Christmas Day in 1990 where despite a disappointing reaction in the box office where it only made $7 million against its $12 million budget. The film was still well-received by its critics and fans of Allen as it also gave Allen an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay while Mia Farrow won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy while winning an award from the National Board of Review.
Shadows and Fog
Allen decides to go into another direction as he turns to the German Expressionist films of the 1920s and 1930s for inspiration. While it would be a suspense-comedy based on a one-act play Allen had conceived back in 1975. Allen would update it into a feature film where a nebbish clerk reluctantly takes part in a vigilante hunt to find a serial killer in the early 20th Century with the help of a circus performer and other people. Though Allen wasn’t originally going to play the role of the clerk known as Kleinman, Orion insisted that he takes part in the film in order to help the film’s box office.
With Mia Farrow along with regulars Julie Kavner and David Odgen Stiers appearing in the film, the cast would be big as it would feature John Malkovich, Madonna, John Cusack, Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, Kenneth Mars, Lily Tomlin, Josef Sommer, Donald Pleasance, and John C. Reilly. Shot in the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York City, the film would have a massive set built in the studio designed by longtime collaborator Santo Loquasto. In order to be faithful for the visual style of the German Expressionist films, Allen and Carlo Di Palma shot the film in black-and-white they used shadows and fog to maintain that sense of atmosphere.
The film would be ambitious in comparison to some of Allen’s more recent films as Allen wanted to incorporate elements of existentialism and such in the story while balancing it with some suspense and humor. Though the results weren’t entirely great, the production still went smooth as Allen wanted to create something that was a bit loose in terms of the acting. Still, Allen wanted to do something that was visually-entrancing but also entertaining as he would use elements of magic to help tell the story going back to Allen’s love for magic.
The film would become Allen’s final film for Orion Pictures as the studio was mired in financial trouble as the release for the film had been delayed endlessly until it was given a limited release on December 5, 1991. While it received mixed reviews and was another box office disappointment only making $2 million against its $19 million budget. The film would also mark the beginning of the end of sorts for Allen as he was already set to make another film.
Husbands and Wives
After ending his long-decade tenure with Orion Pictures as the studio that had supported Allen would go into bankruptcy. Allen and his producers went to TriStar Pictures to help Allen secure funding and distribution for his next project which would be a very personal one. Notably as it would play into Allen’s own personal life involving his longtime relationship with Mia Farrow that was starting to crumble. Seeking inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 film Scenes from a Marriage, Allen’s next film would be about the ups and downs of marriage and relationship.
Wanting to do something different from some of his previous efforts, Allen chose to employ a style similar to cinema verite as it was partially shot largely with hand-held cameras while it would also have moments in the film where some of the characters would be interviewed as if it was a documentary. It was a very unique approach to the story as Allen wanted to aim for not just a sense of realism but also be much looser with the language as he would allow his actors to say more profane things in the course of the film.
With Allen and Farrow playing a couple whose marriage starts to disintegrate following the announcement of their friend’s decision to call it quits. The cast would include Judy Davis, filmmaker Sydney Pollack, Juliette Lewis, and Liam Neeson along with appearances from Blythe Danner, Lysette Anthony, Cristi Conaway, and Ron Rifkin. Shooting began in November of 1991 where Allen once again shot the film in New York City with his longtime cinematographer Carlo Di Palma. For the film’s narrator/interview, Allen chose his longtime costume designer Jeffrey Kurland to play the part though he would be unseen for the entirety of the film.
The production, like most Allen films, were very low-key as actors had to rely on their knowledge of the characters to play into what Allen wanted in the story. Yet, there was much more in the production that became very odd to people as it relates to Allen and Farrow’s disintegrating relationship. While Allen was able to get his other actresses energized for their roles, it was Farrow who would eventually turn in one of her best performances in the film. Notably as a scene where her character and Allen’s character would finally call it quits as where Farrow brought a lot of emotional weight to the performance where it revealed something much bigger where it relates to the breakdown between her relationship with Allen.
The film made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 1992 as it was given an official theatrical release just days later. Yet, the film would give Allen a lot of attention as it relates to not just his break-up with Mia Farrow but also the news that Allen had an affair with Farrow’s adopted Vietnamese daughter Soon-Yi Previn. The film drew raves reviews while its box office was quite modest in recouping half of its budget. Yet, the scandal over Allen’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter made headlines. Though Allen did admit to having an affair with Previn, he denied Farrow’s accusations of molesting one of their adopted children in Dylan Farrow.
After the scandal died down and Farrow won custody of the children including their son Ronan, Husbands and Wives would yield two Oscar nominations for Allen’s screenplay and a supporting actress performance to Judy Davis who would win several critics prizes for Best Supporting Actress while Allen won a BAFTA for his screenplay. Yet, the film marked an end of an era for Allen as his long-decade collaboration with Mia Farrow came to an end while the scandal over his affair with Soon-Yi Previn would do damage to his own reputation.
(End of Part 2)
Pt. 1 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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